Exchanging currency is a necessity if you are planning on travelling abroad or sending money to friends or family in another country. There are a number of places that you can get currency exchanged. All of them have the same currency transfer rates, which are universal and set by the treasury of the country in which you are exchanging currency. However, there are fees and other considerations that may vary the exact amount you get in exchange for your money.
Here are four places where you can exchange currency, and some benefits and drawbacks of each one.
If you have a debit or bank card, then getting cash out at an ATM generally nets you the best currency transfer rates. When you use an ATM, the bank charges you the fee it would charge another bank rather than the higher fee it would charge a customer. However, depending upon where you are travelling, ATMs may not be readily available. In addition, some ATMs charge additional fees if you use a card issued by a different bank. If you are taking out one large payment, then this fee is probably negligible; however, if you plan on taking out several smaller withdrawals, the fees can quickly add up.
If you have cash that you need to exchange, then banks are one of the best places to do it. Most banks charge a transaction fee of between one and three percent on currency conversions, but you will be hard pressed to find a better conversion rate than that. Banks also have a lot of cash on hand for large transactions, and large international or financial establishments will be able to help you get your hands on some of the less common currencies if you need them.
Kiosks or independent vendors
You have probably seen these small kiosks in airports, train stations, or other international transportation hubs. They generally exchange major currencies as well as currencies of the surrounding countries in small to medium amounts. While very convenient, these services often charge high transfer fees and they are generally not the places to look for the best currency transfer rates. However, if you are in a bind they are a good place to get the money you need.
These services allow you to send money to accounts in other countries. You can choose to exchange the currency as you send it for a small additional fee. If you frequently send money to friends of family living back home or abroad, then this is a convenient option and possibly well worth the extra money. It is also a good way to get money to people who need it quickly in case of emergency.